GAFFNEY, S.C. – The Mars Hill football team (2-3, 2-1 SAC) defeated Limestone (0-5, 0-2 SAC) on the road to win their second straight South Atlantic Conference contest, 51-41, Saturday evening.
Craig Rucker, the reigning SAC Offensive Player of the Week, put together another dominant offensive performance, setting a school and conference record with five receiving touchdowns. Rucker pulled down nine catches for 221 yards. Austin Brown tied a school record with six touchdown passes, going 19-of-30 for 371 yards. Earl Adams had a team-high 10 tackles.
Similar to last year's contest, Saturday's game was another high scoring affair. The Saints opened the scoring just over a minute and a half into the first quarter with a 49 yard touchdown pass from DJ Phillips to Cody Rau. On the Lions first possession of the game, they would match the Saints' result when Rucker would score his first on the night with 7:18 left in the first, a nine yard grab. The Lions would then take the lead with 2:43 remaining in the first stanza with a Tanner Fox 42 yard field goal. Eighteen seconds later, on the first play of the drive, Phillips connected with Rau for their second touchdown of the quarter, a 77 yard reception that put Limestone up 14-10. With 12 seconds remaining in the quarter, the Saints forced and returned a fumble from 25 yards out to extend their lead to 11 points.
The Lions would go on to outscore the Saints 14-7 in the second quarter and head into halftime trailing by four points. Rucker was on the receiving end of both touchdown passes in the frame, an 11 and 19 yard passing play, respectively. The Lions held a 24-21 lead heading into the final minute of the half, but a 55 yard interception return for a touchdown by Justin Wyatt allowed Limestone to regain the lead to end the first half.
Brown threw his fourth touchdown of the day to Rucker 1:34 into the second half, a 64 yard reception that saw the Lions retake the lead 31-28. With 1:38 remaining in the quarter, the Saints would tie the game with a 20 yard field goal after the Lions defense were able to hold them out of the end zone.
The Saints would once again use a deep pass and quick score to retake the lead. Phillips threw for his third touchdown of the day, connecting with JoJo Watson on a 67 yard pass to put Limestone up by seven. Once again, the Lions would roar back and 13 seconds later, Rucker would set the school and conference record with his fifth touchdown reception of the night on his longest catch of the day, a 70 yard reception.
Exactly ten minutes later, the 38-38 tie was broken by a 33 yard field goal from the boot of Griffin Martin. Mars Hill would go on to score the final 13 points of the game over the final 3:35, the first score being Brown's sixth touchdown pass to give Mars Hill the lead. Tyler Ferguson caught the 44 yard pass that put the Lions up for the remainder of the contest. On the ensuing Saints' drive, Phillips was picked off by Jaden King who, like Wyatt did for Limestone, returned the interception 55 yards for the final score of the game and secure the 10-point win for Mars Hill.
Phillips had 329 yards passing and three touchdown passes for the Saints. Rau had seven receptions for 175 yards and two scores. Jerko'ya Patton had a game-high 83 yards on the ground and D'Meko Pryor led all players with 11 tackles.
The Lions ran 81 plays for 501 yards on the day and led in most offensive categories, including first downs (25), rushing yards (130), receptions (19), receiving yards (371), passing yards (371) and time of possession (35:30).
Mars Hill returns to the Ammons Family Athletic Center and Meares Stadium on Saturday, October 6th for their annual homecoming game. The contest versus Tusculum is scheduled for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff.